Avoiding Weight Discrimination and Early Death
So many adages exist about nutrition and health. You are what you eat. An apple a day keeps the doctor away. Let your food be your medicine and your medicine be your food. Every time you eat is an opportunity to nourish your body. Less of this, more of that.
Not surprisingly, dietary choices and nutritional status affect body weight and chronic disease risk. Lifestyle behaviors (not smoking, healthy diet, and adequate physical behavior) often co-exist. Smoking and physical inactivity have greater consequences on the risk of dying than nutrition.
The odds ratio is a calculation estimating relative risk. Using this approach, low baseline serum vitamin E concentrations were associated with greater mortality in Finland, the Alpha-Tocopherol, Beta-Carotene Cancer Prevention Study (ATBC) and more recently cancer survival rates in ATBC participants. In population-based cohort studies, a 20 nmol/L increase in vitamin D levels is associated with an 8% lower mortality. Low vitamin D levels increase the risk of mortality among persons with obstructive lung function.
Risk calculations aren’t constrained to micronutrients. Odds ratios can be calculated for food and energy sources too. Consuming more free sugar is associated with increasing body fatness but the differences attributable to free sugar intake, e.g. body weight change, disappear when energy intake is kept constant.
Some behaviors are extremely risky. Smoking for 40 years (adjusted for number of cigarettes smoked) increases the risk of cancer 28-fold in women and 9-fold in men. Wearing seatbelts reduces the risk of dying in a car accident. People who are not wearing a seat belt are 30 times more likely to be ejected from a vehicle during a crash; 75% of those ejected will die from their injuries.
Risks can be additive. Normal-weight individuals are 67% more likely to wear seatbelts than the morbidly obese. Maintaining a healthy weight requires balancing food energy intake with energy expenditure. Failure to do so means weight gain.
A new study also reports that weight discrimination increases stepwise with increasing morbid obesity by 8 to 56-fold relative normal-weight individuals. Another reason to watch our diet.
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